WVU turns to major law firm in case of student athlete
A Goliath in the world of collegiate sports law is working with West Virginia University on an eligibility issue involving a member of the football team.
School officials won't discuss why WVU recently signed a contract with an attorney, who is informally known as "The Cleaner," for services that cost hundreds of dollars an hour.
"All I can tell you is when working with this, we thought it was appropriate, our general counsel thought it was appropriate, that we needed expertise that we didn't possess among our in-house lawyers - and they're awfully good," WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck told the Daily Mail Wednesday.
The university recently hired Bond, Schoeneck and King, a law firm with 210 attorneys based in upstate New York. The firm also runs a collegiate sports practice group in Kansas, chaired by managing partner Michael Glazier, according to its website.
Glazier and the group specialize in issues pertaining to eligibility, infractions and compliance for student athletes, universities and others who could be affected by National Collegiate Athletic Association rules and regulations.
Some of Glazier's cases are well known in collegiate sports. In a 2008 article, ESPN.com compared Glazier to a movie character in "Pulp Fiction" who takes care of sticky situations.
"The minor difference? Instead of panicked gangsters calling with bloodied dead guys to get rid of, Glazier fields calls from panicked university administrators with NCAA investigators sniffing around them," wrote Dana O'Neil.
A source told the Daily Mail the case concerns the "initial eligibility" of a student athlete. Initial eligibility ensures prospective student athletes meet NCAA academic and amateurism guidelines, according to the NCAA.
WVU spokesman John Bolt said last week the university uses private attorneys to help with work involving the NCAA "from time to time."
"We cannot comment further as to confidential and privileged information concerning the work performed by counsel," Bolt wrote in an email to a Daily Mail reporter.
On July 26, the Office of the West Virginia Attorney General determined WVU could appoint the private law firm without going through a competitive bidding process because the matter "involves an emergency situation."
"More specifically, the university is in need of an attorney or attorneys familiar with NCAA eligibility work to represent the university on a time-sensitive eligibility matter that needs resolved prior to the start of the college football season on August 31, 2013," states the written determination, signed by Chief Counsel Dan Greear.
It says the legal services WVU needed went beyond the immediate capabilities of the Attorney General's Office. The matters require an expertise in NCAA student athlete eligibility rules, according to the determination.
The agreement between WVU and Bond, Schoeneck & King started July 9, according to a copy of the contract obtained by the Daily Mail through a Freedom of Information Act request. The Attorney General's Office didn't issue its waiver until 17 days later, spokeswoman Beth Ryan confirmed.
"The Attorney General's Office was not aware of any written contract entered into prior to the waiver/written determination dated July 26," Ryan said Wednesday in an emailed statement.
Bolt did not immediately respond to questions about what work the law firm performed during that 17-day period.
The contract is between the WVU Board of Governors on behalf of the school and the law firm. It makes no mention of the athletic department and doesn't provide any specific details as to why the law firm is needed, but it does outline a price structure.
A partner working on the case commands between $315 and $350 an hour, the contract states. Associates cost $175 to $230 an hour, paralegals cost $105 to $110 an hour and "other" people working on the deal cost $240 an hour, according to the contract.
Glazier is considered a partner, according to the law firm's website.
The contract says the firm must handle the work in the most cost-efficient way possible. It says the firm can also bill for phone services, photocopying, travel, meals, lodging and more. The firm is required to submit billable hours on a monthly basis, according to the contract.
Bolt did not immediately respond to questions about whether Bond, Schoeneck & King had submitted any hours or if WVU had paid the law firm anything.
Glazier and the firm have handled a slew of high-profile cases involving college athletic programs and potential NCAA violations. The firm represented Ohio State University in its case concerning controversial running back Maurice Clarett and Glazier represented the University of Miami in the case of convicted booster Nevin Shapiro, according to multiple media reports.
Glazier recently represented the University of Memphis in part of the case involving alleged standardized test wrongdoing for then-student and current Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose, according to a 2010 article in The Commercial Appeal newspaper. Glazier also represented former Indiana University basketball coach Kelvin Sampson in at least part of his case alleging NCAA violations, according to the ESPN.com article.
Recently, Glazier steered the University of Oregon through a scandal involving an alleged $25,000 payment to a football player.
Characterizing the NCAA sanctions received by Oregon at the culmination of the case as a slap on the wrist, Sports Illustrated college football reporter Stewart Mandel wrote in June, "For that, 'The Cleaner' Mike Glazier . . . earned every bit of his billable hours by working this case for Oregon."
Glazier signed the contract with WVU for the firm and the contract lists him as the firm's contact person in the case. In a phone call Wednesday, an employee at Glazier's office said he was not able to comment and deferred to WVU.
Bolt did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions as to whether he could identify the student, why WVU needed the attorneys or whether there was an NCAA investigation.
WVU's first football game is Aug. 31 in Morgantown against William & Mary.
Writer Mike Casazza contributed to this report.